The symptoms of Graves’ disease mimic a lot of other disorders and diseases. Many patients need to communicate with their physician and request a simple blood test to determine whether or not you have this condition. This disease affects approximately 13 million people.
Many symptoms and the acuteness of them can vary from patient to patient. However, the most common are ; anxiety, excessive diarrhea, shaky hands, sweating, insomnia, increased appetite but still feeling hungry, loss of weight, tremors, hair loss, increased pulse rate, rapid heartbeat or cardiac arrhythmia. Your eyes can also be affected by Graves’ disease. The most severe symptom of the eyes is a bulging of the eyes which creates the illusion of the patient having a penetrating stare. You may feel light sensitivity and eye puffiness also.
Less common symptoms are feeling weak, fatigue, confusion, extremely smooth skin and changes in your nails and nail beds. You may additionally experience changes in your menstrual cycle. For some women their menstrual cycles can become very short and Graves’ disease can also affect your fertility by decreasing your chances of pregnancy.
The symptoms are a result of an overproduction of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). The thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) controls the body’s metabolism. Therefore, by increasing this hormone your body’s metabolism goes into overdrive for just about everything.
Women are seven times more likely to develop this disease than men. This is an auto immune disease or disorder. Auto immune disorders are diseases that make your body attack itself. Your own immune system perceives your body as the enemy. For Graves’s patients the thyroid is attacked by your immune system and too much thyroid hormone is produced by your thyroid gland.
A less likely cause for Graves is that your thyroid has developed a thyroid nodule on your thyroid gland (a non-cancerous cyst) which produces additional not needed thyroid hormone. This can also produce hyperthyroidism.
Most patients aren’t diagnosed with Graves’ disease until they develop a goiter. A goiter is the thyroid gland enlarged in the front of the neck.
The first step to diagnosis if you have a thyroid disease is a physical exam and performing a series of thyroid hormone tests. After your test have determined you’re producing too much TSH, a nuclear scan of the thyroid is performed to verify if you have Graves’ disease, thyroid nodules, hyperthyroidism or thyroid cancer. The nuclear scan determines which disease you have by the level of radioactive iodine is being taken in by your thyroid. The test is performed outpatient over 2 days. A symptom of your Graves’ disease is an abnormal heart rhythm and increased pulse rate. Therefore, a chest x-ray and/or EKG (electrocardiogram) is performed to measure the rhythm or beats in your heart. In some cases heart medication may be prescribed to control your symptoms until a more permanent solution can be done to treat your disease.
A diagnosis of Graves can be misdiagnosed as too much caffeine in your diet, stress, or even angina. It’s very important to have the nuclear scan performed to diagnosis the thyroid disorder correctly because it determines the medical treatment that will be provided and rule out other diagnosis.
Immediate diagnosis of Graves can result in a good prognosis. With continuing and constant medical care and supervising, many people can live normal life spans.
Some treatment options are surgery, radiation and medication. Usually it’s a combination of two of these three options. Surgery is performed on the thyroid or radiation. Surgery must also be executed on the bulging eyes to correct this symptom.
Usually nine out of ten patients must take thyroid replacement medication for the rest of their lives if surgery or radiation is performed to balance the TSH. Surgery to remove either part of the thyroid or the entire gland can result in not enough TSH being produced (hypothyroidism). If the goiter or enlarged thyroid gland is large enough to interfere with eating, drinking or breathing, it should be removed entirely. Therefore, you must regulate the TSH to bring the patient to a euro-thyroid status. Medication is what provides your body with the TSH after surgery. The medication dosage is regulated on a scheduled basis and you must take the replacement medication for the rest of your life.
Graves’ disease is a condition that could result in death if your symptoms are not identified and treated with the correct medical care as soon as possible.